The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on June 6 announced in the Federal Register the availability of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for commercial wind lease issuance, site characterization activities and site assessment activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore New York.
The EA considers the potential impacts of the proposed action and an analysis of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action (excluding the area within two nautical miles of the traffic separation schemes, and no action).
This June 6 Notice of Availability (NOA) also serves to announce the beginning of the public comment period on the EA. The comment period runs for 30 days from June 6.
Should a lessee propose to construct a commercial wind facility through submission of a Construction and Operations Plan, BOEM would conduct a separate site- and project-specific National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis, likely an Environmental Impact Statement.
BOEM identified this Wind Energy Area (WEA) through extensive collaboration and consultation with stakeholders including a task force, federal agencies, federally recognized tribes, the New York Department of State and other state agencies, the general public, and other relevant stakeholders beginning in November 2010. The task force held planning meetings in New York in November 2010, April 2012, September 2013, and April 2016.
In September 2011, BOEM received an unsolicited request for a commercial lease offshore New York from the New York Power Authority (NYPA). NYPA worked together with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and Consolidated Edison (ConEd) to propose a 350-MW to 700-MW offshore wind project south of Long Island, N.Y., approximately 13 miles off Rockaway Peninsula. In subsequent discussions, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) recommended a minimum of 1 nautical mile separation distance from designated navigation lanes. NYPA incorporated this guidance in its lease request by an amendment filed in June 2012, requesting additional lease area to compensate for the area lost by the increased setback distance.
In response to the unsolicited NYPA proposal, as amended, BOEM published an information request in the Federal Register on Jan. 4, 2013, to assess whether other parties were interested in developing commercial wind facilities in the same area proposed by NYPA. In addition to inquiring about competitive interest, BOEM also sought public comment on the NYPA proposal, its potential environmental consequences, and the use of the area in which the proposed project would be located. BOEM received indications of interest from Fishermen’s Energy LLC and Energy Management Inc.
BOEM reviewed these nominations and determined that competitive interest in the area proposed by NYPA exists. Therefore, BOEM stopped processing NYPA’s unsolicited lease application and initiated the competitive leasing process. Subsequently, on May 28, 2014, BOEM published in the Federal Register a Call for Information and Nominations offshore New York to seek additional nominations from companies interested in obtaining commercial wind energy leases within the Call Area. BOEM also sought public input on the potential for wind development in the Call Area, including comments on site conditions, resources, and existing uses of the area relevant to BOEM’s wind energy development authorization process.
Concurrently, BOEM published in the Federal Register a notice of its plans to prepare an EA for commercial wind leasing and site assessment activities offshore New York.
The WEA begins about 11 nautical mines south of Long Beach, N.Y., and extends approximately 26 nautical miles southeast along its longest portion. The WEA contains five whole OCS blocks and 148 sub-blocks (127 square miles or 81,130 acres).
BOEM noted that it initially considered a potential use conflict — a proposal by Liberty Natural Gas LLC to build the Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Deepwater Port facilities in the Call Area. However, the project was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 12, 2015, and is no longer moving forward. Therefore, BOEM did not consider the impacts of the Port Ambrose project in this EA.
The Sierra Club said June 2 that this BOEM action lines up with Gov. Cuomo’s recently-announced Clean Energy Standard, which requires the state to source 50% of New York’s electric energy from renewables by 2030. The Cuomo Administration has publicly stated that the development and deployment of offshore wind is essential to achieve New York’s renewable energy targets.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups said: “Our organizations call on Governor Cuomo to seize this opportunity and commit to a long term, large scale offshore wind program for New York this year. Responsibly developed offshore wind power must play a major role in New York’s energy future. A strong commitment to offshore wind as part of the Governor’s Clean Energy Standard would help launch an entirely new industry, with the capacity to power millions of homes, produce millions of dollars in economic investments and spur new economic development and manufacturing opportunities statewide. Now is the time for Governor Cuomo and New York’s leaders to embrace the massive, job-creating power source needed to meet the states clean energy and climate goals.”
Lead image credit: Department of Energy and Climate Change | Flickr
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